The rebel troops crash into the soldiers’ ranks, further dismantling their formation. They quickly infiltrate the gaping breaches I’ve opened with my improvised construct.
This makes up for our disadvantage in shields since they can no longer make a wall but the fact that most peasants wield two-handed weapons like flails, scythes, and spears against their army which is mainly equipped with one-handed swords renders the battle even.
The initial clash cost dozens of lives, mostly from Mirus’ side because of their shock but casualties are now slowing down. Our sides’ archers finally come into play and release their arrows.
The fact they’re aiming uphill helps them see where they’re aiming at but it also prevents them from shooting very far, meaning they can’t reach the enemy archers and are themselves being bombarded by arrows.
A dozen two-meter wide air-blades and four fireballs take shape around Claywood as his officers cooperate to retaliate. I worry at the damage they could inflict but know I’ve not the flow to counter these.
I flick my gaze to the north as constructs begin pummeling the rebels. An air-blade that was cruising somewhere on my right flank, which I’m now turning my back to, suddenly veers to go straight at me. I reach behind myself and smash the silver crescent right into the ground with kinetic force.
My traits tighten as I hear the agonizing cry. I wish I could say it was a hard choice, or that I didn’t realize my action could kill or injure a rebel, but the truth is that I estimate this victory is more important than the lives it costs.
I’m valuing my abstract ideal of spreading Freedom above concrete lives, same as Nobles do with their honor. Our goal isn’t for personal gain, it is for all. That only applies if we succeed, Liz, if we do not then we will have become the worst monster who has ever walked this world.
True. I briefly close my eyes to fight the pain in my chest at the idea of losing everything. But, sister, whatever faults Leomi has, her love for us is unwavering so not all will be lost if we do not achieve our goal. I make a thin smile and nod.
Flo is engaged with the northern forces and winning, part of her unit is already flanking them. I flip to the south, finding that my minions are successfully delaying Claywood’s reinforcements with archers and maneuvers.
There are still constructs falling on our troops to try to turn the tide of their raging charge but, while they might be causing as much damage as I did, they are so unimpressive compared to my construct that the rebels are barely taking notice in their murderous fervor.
Not to mention that it is entirely inefficient for them to use their energy like this, my construct was valuable because it affected the state of the entire battlefield rather than because of the casualties I inflicted.
With this, it’s only a matter of time until we obtain victory. As the words form in my mind, Mirus’ soldiers begin pushing back with coordinated lion strikes. Rebels start dropping like flies which puts a damper on their enthusiasm but, without organized ranks to push back, the tactic is much less effective than it should be.
Horrendous casualties start piling up to the point where their numbers drop to two hundred while ours plummet to barely three-hundred. Yet, despite all those setbacks, the battle is unfolding in the best manner that could be hoped because Claywood is attempting to win on his own despite being outnumbered instead of delaying for reinforcements.
The absurdity of war makes me laugh as I advance towards the front-line with my broadsword at my side. So many deaths, hundreds falling to their final rest because a mad peasant learned to win against such ludicrous odds that even a relatively skilled general who likely handled the rebellion with success for months cannot come to terms with the possibility of defeat.
How much of a joke is this? If Claywood had foreknowledge that the battle would unfold as it has, wouldn’t he have negotiated? At the very least, he would have behaved more prudently and sought to avoid this defeat.
“Do not let up! They are on the verge of crumbling!” I bellow and my cry is picked up by rebels to spread out.
I witness a squad with scythes run out of flow to be slaughtered by a series of heavy blows they no longer have the strength to block, clearly underlining the weakness of the strengthening construct compared to the lion strike.
I lion’s leap into the breach left by the dead rebels to land without my guard up. The soldiers stare at me, surprised. The one to my left reacts the fastest and tries to impale me with his spear.
I parry with a lion strike and guide the thrust into the flank of a swords-woman to my right. Her hard leather armor prevents the spearhead from going too deep but her cheap helmet doesn’t do anything to stop me from cracking her skull with my pommel.
As the woman drops, the soldier facing me raises his sword. I use a lion strike to launch a thrust into his eye while front-kicking the spear-man. While he staggers, I jerk my broadsword out of the first’s brain and then thrust it in his chest.
The remaining soldiers around me, who just witnessed their three friends die within moments, all turn tail and run like crazy which causes the rebels to launch after them. This breach in our line turns into another hole in theirs we exploit.
I stand wheezing as low born cruise by, far too many to their deaths. Finally, Flo and her unit break the northern troops. She sends some of her subordinates to chase the fleeing soldiers to lead the majority to charge along the valley’s side.
“Push! Break them!” I command as loud as I can, keeping it short.
Units begin advancing across the line, pressuring the opposing army more and more. I hear the echo of Claywood yelling several dozen meters away, apparently realizing the battle has turned in his disfavor.
Baffled, I witness rebels throw themselves at soldiers and die merely to add their weight to the pile. It is insanity, it works. Mirus’ ranks crumble, they lose more and more ground while Flo’s unit ever draws closer.
I raise my broadsword to point it at Claywood, hoping he’ll spot my average figure in this mess. His glare turns to me within moments, he likely never lost sight of me and his expression drops when he spots my challenge.
An arrow flies straight towards my face so I incline my head to the side, letting it bounce off my helmet without breaking eye contact. Somehow, this seems to enrage the man and he taps his mount’s flanks to send it trotting towards me.
I had expected him to do this a while back if he was going to disregard the warning Siegfried very likely gave him about me so it’s surprising this is what got him to lose his temper. I’ll take it.
As he slowly makes his way through his lines, I turn to check the south to find that my minions are in full retreat to the west. It gives me pause because not only are they going uphill, which makes disengaging harder, but also moving away from our forces.
Still, it also ensures that the southern reinforcements can’t easily go after our troops with a unit waiting for them to turn their backs on them. I spot Rowland with another injury again on his left side and Idali supporting him while Uhla tries to patch him up.
I shake my head at his recklessness when he can’t see from one side. It might do him good to find a shield that doesn’t occupy his left hand so he can still wield his hand-and-a-half sword and defend himself. Really, who keeps getting themselves injured like this? Kh, kh.
I ignore Liz’ laugh and swirl back to Claywood to find him galloping through the soldiers with a helmet on, injuring quite a few, with a maddened expression. He clearly took my looking away as a bit of an insult.
“Clear the way!” I bellow.
As I stomp forth, Claywood leaps over the backs of his own front-line. I accelerate my perception for a split second, just enough time to launch a narrow but fast air-blade at his mount’s neck.
The construct cuts through the throat of the horse moments before it lands atop two peasants with spears, crushing them. Claywood doesn’t realize and he rides his mount for a half-dozen more meters before the animal drops from under him to crash and roll over itself on ground hurriedly freed by panicking rebels.
The general barely manages to hop off before his leg is crushed but lands on his side with a grimace. I lion’s step through the disorganized rebels, giving the man barely enough time to stand back up and apply a defensive construct to his chain-mail.
The energy is so intensely concentrated that the steel links turn golden. I lunge to try and cut his jugular but he inclines his head to block the blow with his cheek-guard. I sigh and apply a defensive construct to my rather chipped long broadsword.
“Jessica Freepath! Nobility will never bend the spine to your barbaric ambitions to tear this Empire apart!” He shouts at me.
“Good, I’m fully counting on most of you fighting to the death.” I mockingly respond.
Claywood launches a quick slash from his elbow that I parry to avoid getting into a contest of strength with this large man who would likely have more endurance than me even before I lost my arm.
He launches a series of whirling blows that I fling aside with minimal movements. I notice, in the corner of my field of vision, two dozen rebels from Flo’s unit impacting the soldiers’ right flank. Their ranks are so pressured that several of their squads end up isolated.
Now I only need to win this duel to break this detachment of their army. I lower my stance, letting flow course through my muscles and runic armor. Claywood attempts an overhead blow. I shift to the right, dodging it while also launching a quick thrust to his belly.
He, oddly, doesn’t react to it so I prudently stomp down to stop my forward momentum. The point of my broadsword hits his chain-mail and is stopped dead by a version of a kinetic construct. I met killers in Port-Odo who used this. Interesting, far less efficient than our unstructured method.
Claywood’s left fist comes barreling towards my face so I lean down to welcome it with my helmet as I link directly to my flow. His knuckles impact the steel with far more weight and momentum than a simple lion strike would deliver, it costs me three entire portions of energy to turn the kinetic force of his blow against itself.
The general recoils with a pained expression and a bloody fist but apparently no broken bones. That fact added to his power signifies the man is using his flow to strengthen his body to inhuman levels, and the strength of his defensive construct would cost me a lot of energy to cut through even with a sundering construct.
Claywood opens and closes his wounded hand to show off it’s fine. I straighten up to lazily make my weapon spin in my palm to a backhanded one and then to a normal one. His eyes narrow, he knows he isn’t my match in swordswomanship.
“Fight me hand to hand if you have the guts.” He provokes.
“Buddy, we’ve been using tools for ten thousand years, get with the program.” I mock.
“Coward.” He jeers.
“Very well.” I respond with a crooked grin. “It’s your life you’re throwing away.”
Claywood’s expression turns ferocious as he throws out his sword which flies a couple of meters before planting itself in the ground at an angle. This isn’t going to be easy, do you mind if I borrow your construct sister? Go ahead. I stab my broadsword in the dirt and warm up my shoulder.
“To death, rebel.” Claywood utters as he leans down to place his bleeding fist on the ground.
I belatedly notice that rebels have not only cleared our surroundings but put so much space between them and the general that there is now a gaping hole in the middle of the battlefield. Thankfully, Mirus’ soldiers appear as enthusiastic about challenging me and aren’t coming anywhere near.
I extend my arm out and turn profile to my opponent. Claywood suddenly kicks out and comes flying at me with spread arms while dirt spreads out in a cloud behind him. Since he’s going for a tackle, I choose to stop him in the most humiliating way.
As he begins closing his arms to grab me, I launch my arm out and smack my palm against his forehead protected by a thick steel helmet, using unstructured energy to negate the collision.
Tchak. Claywood stops dead upon contact, his head and spine are jerked back from the kinetic force I return. His arms swing under mine, grabbing naught but air. I bring my arm back while he shakes his head to clear his thoughts.
I throw a punch at his chest that I enhance by drawing on our surroundings, from the wind and from the trembling earth caused by our two armies battling it out. A golden flash colors the area as my flow redirects the kinetic force. Thmp, krr.
Claywood absorbs my blow like a beast, it only causes him to slide back a couple of meters. I return to my previous stance as he straightens up to slowly walk up to me while rubbing his closed fists together with a grin lifting his lips.
I carefully inspect his attire as he approaches to find weak points. Throat, nose, eyes, chin, articulations. I let a smirk out as my path to victory becomes clear. He launches with his arms extended out, clearly aiming to grab me by the stubbed leather strips covering my half-shoulder and those protecting my thighs.
As he towers over me with his ludicrous stature, I let him reach for my left side with his right hand to focus on his left arm which is reaching for my skirt. I use several staggered lion strikes to counter with lightning-fast speed.
I take a half-step forward which causes his hand to smack against my side instead of finding a grip. Then, I pass my arm on the outside of his elbow before bringing it up to wrap my limb around his biceps which locks his entire limb against my body.
He grabs the leather strips hanging from my cuirass and uses that to try to pull me off-balance while forcefully fighting my hold on his arm. I redirect every bit of kinetic force he produces with his beast-like strength, foiling all his efforts but also locking me in place.
This unforeseen downside to this method gives me pause until I figure out I can begin twisting when he’s gathering his strength since he isn’t constantly applying pressure.
As I begin forcing the man’s arm into a tighter and more dangerous hold, he tries to punch me with his right fist only for it to end up bloodied like the last time with no effect.
“Aarrrh!” He roars as he brings his head back to go for a headbutt.
I incline my head down again and move another half-step forward, receiving his chin with the hard steel spine of my helmet. Claywood wobbles from the shock so I take advantage to retreat the same distance I advanced and activate a lion strike enhanced with kinetic force.
I launch an uppercut that drives his wrist up to my armpit to be stuck there while I keep forcing his arm up. His elbow bends the wrong way around until it breaks with a sickening wet sound. Crack.
A bone protrudes against the inside of his hard leather sleeves. Ironically, his defensive construct flickers as it preserves the integrity of the armor from this internal attack. It is likely an open fracture, I can easily imagine the white bone piercing through the skin with thin red filaments of blood covering it.
“Iirrahr!” Claywood screams to the sky with a shrill voice, exposing his neck.
I let go of the useless arm and use the edge of my hand to slash at his throat. Crk. This time the sound is more discreet and the pain likely less intense but it causes Claywood’s eyes to widen as if I’d stuck him in the balls.
A definite result of his realization that his demise will come along with his loss. He makes a wheezing sound as he brings his right arm back for a punch but his movements are much slower so I launch a rapid low-kick to his right knee, destroying his balance.
With this opening, I launch two joined fingers in a jab at his left eye with a lion strike, piercing it. The general blinks over his eye-socket from which gooey red liquid is leaking. He tries to launch his punch anyway and I detect a silver construct forming behind me over my shoulder.
I silently praise the man’s stubborn resilience and lion strike my fist into his nose. Krc. I shatter his bones, his nascent construct, and his last hopes of recovering from this battle in one blow.
The man’s traits slacken and no sounds come out of his gaping mouth. The pain is so intense his knees falter and he staggers back, which might also be a feeble attempt at a retreat.
Since his defensive construct is still strong and I’ve no interest in burning energy to deal with it, especially with only thirteen remaining portions, I decide to dismantle the man piece by piece.
I first pierce his other eye and then front-kick him into the ground. As he lays there on his back, I kneel atop his rib-cage to grab his arm. I easily neutralize his struggle, supported only by a long-running strengthening construct, with kinetic force.
I quickly find an opening to jerk it over his head without letting it bend, dislocating his shoulder. As the general lays where he is, panting and broken, I assemble Elizabeth’s blood construct and gather blood from the soaked soil.
I use water segments to guide red streams of blood out of the ground and rise onto a golden framework of air filaments. I then guide the vital liquid into the Lord’s nose and mouth to slowly pour into his lungs.
“Krh, rh, kh.” He tries to cough it out without success.
“You drown in the blood of those you condemned through your arrogance, Claywood.” I proclaim.